Your “prayers not answered” means your “expectations not fulfilled.” The TAO wisdom explains why: your attachments to careers, money, relationships, and success “make” but also “break” you by creating your flawed ego-self that demands your “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Careers and Depression


Careers and Depression

The bag and baggage

To choose a career, to pursue a career, to change a career, or to end a career—they often come with the bag and baggage of the signs and symptoms of depression, such as fear, regret, disappointment, and among others.

Career choice

A case in point

A Chinese couple in North America have a son who wants to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Their son in his early thirties decided to go to Beijing to learn the Chinese language as a prerequisite of his career pursuit. His parents have opposed to the idea of living in Beijing, or rather pursuing a career in the entertainment industry.

The different perspectives

From the parents’ perspectives: a really successful career in the entertainment industry is few and far between, especially if it is not pursued at a much younger age.
From the son’s perspectives: money, glamour, and quick recognition often come with success in a career in the entertainment industry.

The ultimate truths

A be-all-and-end-all career based on only one variable, which is money, may not turn out that way.

Any glamorous career is always competitive, but it does not mean it is unachievable at any age. Have an empty mind that everything is doable and achievable irrespective of the age.

Recognition should not be the only primary reason for pursuing any career; rather, passion should be the driving force behind.

Easy success in any human endeavor hurts ultimately,  especially a career in the long term, because it does not expand an individual’s capacity and capability to deal with problems when they get tough, or to have the persistence to go through them when things do not turn out as expected. Hard-earned success, on the other hand, may prepare an individual for more success in the future through persistence and perseverance. 

The reality

There is no right or wrong in the choice or pursuit of your career; after all, it is your career, and others may be looking at your career from their own perspectives.

Follow your passion, not people or what they say. Success comes from hard work, and not from wishful thinking. Spend your internal energy pursuing what you want, not defending or explaining why you want it; the latter has to do with your ego. Always ask yourself many self-intuitive questions about why and how you want to pursue your career goals.

TAO wisdom

According to TAO, choosing a career is like digging a well. Did you choose the right spot? Have you dug deep enough? If nothing happens according to your expectation, then self-doubt, reinforced by fear and uncertainty, may make you go for another spot. Going for another spot and yet another one may only bring you further frustration and more disappointment.

The bottom line: carefully choose your career, apply persistent effort, and you will find your initial investment of time and effort rewarding. Even if you choose to move on after a while, you will still find it very worthwhile because you have learned something from it Just remember that giving up is not an admission of defeat or disappointment; rather, giving up is letting go of any resistance when dealing with the chaos of life, and redirecting your energy to a higher purpose.

“The Way to the Creator is deep-rooted.
Unmoved, it becomes the source of all movement.
Stable, it enables us to act without rashness.

“So, whatever we do, we do not abandon our true nature.
The world around us is riddled with worries and distractions.
We remain stable, steady, and steadfast.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 26)

Do not abandon your true nature: be stable, steady, and steadfast.

Career advancement

Career advancement involves many new challenges and increasing responsibilities. If this is what you want, it may provide you with satisfaction and motivation to move on with your current career.

On the other hand, if career advancement is not right for you, then you may consider lateral move within your organization, that is, changing your daily duties but without increasing your responsibilities.

TAO wisdom

Wanting or not wanting your career advancement is your choice. According to TAO, your choice should not be based on control or power.

“Likewise, our greatness comes
not from our power or control,
but from our own true nature,
which is living as one with the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34)

During career advancement, your procrastination may sometimes become an obstacle, causing frustration. Lao Tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

“Great accomplishments are only
a combination of small steps.
Difficult tasks are no more than
a series of easy steps.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63)

So, begin your first step, and one step at a time, but do not overstep yourself.

“Striving to climb the ladder of success,
we may seem smart.
But trusting our Creator,
we find divine guidance,
which is effortless along the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 28)

Climbing a career ladder successfully is never easy and smooth: involvement with argument and aggression is often inevitable. Ambition often comes with an aggressive and domineering personality, often leading to coercion and imposition.

According to TAO, do what you have to do, but without “over-doing” it, which essentially means acting without attachments or expectations, but with effortless efficiency. While climbing your career ladder, neither push someone over nor use any inappropriate means to remove any obstacle that may stand in your way. Career success stems from your contentment, and not your resentment

“Resentment breeds more resentment.
Only contentment leads to contentment.
True contentment comes from our true nature:
not from what we do, or how we do;
neither from our status nor our control.

The Creator is impartial.
No one is special.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 79)

In your career advancement, you may find the urge to argue to prove that you are right

“The wise learn to succumb, instead of arguing.”
(Tao Te Ching, Chapter 81)

Arguing with your co-workers or just anyone else can never bring any worthwhile benefits. When you feel the urge to argue a point with someone, take a deep breath, bite your tongue, and remind yourself that any combat is due to your own ego.
Countering any aggression with aggression is just like fighting fire with fire. According to TAO, when confronted with aggression, neither fight back nor back down; instead be gentle but firm. The objective is not to humiliate the aggressor but to transform the harm into harmony, and the aggression into peace.

“So, we advance
not at the expense of overstepping anyone.
So, we gain
not at the expense of making anyone lose.
So, we accomplish
not at the expense of straining ourselves.

We have no enemy.
We love everyone as ourselves.
We remain in our true nature;
otherwise, we lose
the three essentials of the Way,
and become our own enemy.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 69)

On the other hand, if you find that you have assumed an aggressive and domineering personality during your career advancement, do remind yourself the wisdom of not expanding your ego at the expense of others, because career success, like anything else, can never sustain itself over the long haul. The reality is that nothing lasts, not even a very successful career.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Anti-Depression Love Recipes


Love Recipes

“Love” is a big word in all human civilizations. For all religious disparities, love still plays an essential role in all the world’s religions. Love plays an important role in human lives, especially living in a world of conflicts and aggression.

What is the real meaning of “love”? Love involves our emotions and feelings. We all love some things and some people. Love, ironically enough, gives us both happiness and unhappiness. When the love is fulfilled, we feel happy; when the love is rejected or unrequited, we then feel pain, which becomes the unhappiness. This, unfortunately, is the reality of love.

Loving others is not that easy, and loving yourself is sometimes even more difficulty. This is also the reality of life.
The truth of the matter is that to truly love someone is very difficult, if not impossible, unless you love yourself first.

Self-acceptance

In a general sense, self-esteem is the positive or negative evaluative perception of self.  It is a rating of self based on a partial assessment of current and/or past traits. Many mental health professionals claim that achieving higher self-esteem is the keystone of good mental health, in particular, in avoiding depression; such claims, however, are dubious at best.

Low self-esteem is self-doubt, often expressed in not asserting oneself in public or workplace, and not pushing past one’s comfort zones.

To love yourself is self-acceptance, which is accepting who and what you really are—and not who and what you wish you were (that is, your ego-self). It should also be pointed out that “loving yourself” and “loving your ego-self” are not quite the same. The former is loving yourself for who you really are despite all your imperfections; the latter involves loving or craving to be the person you wish you were. “Loving yourself” means you can love others as well because they are not very different from you in that they, too, are as imperfect as you are. On the other hand, “loving your ego-self” means it is very difficult to love others because you want to distinguish and separate yourself from others; accordingly, others must somehow satisfy your ego first before you can love them. That explains why if you have a big ego-self, you cannot easily and readily love others.

The bottom line: if you can accept yourself as who and what you are, then it may become much easier for you to accept and love others as who and what they are.

Oneness of all life

Accepting and loving others implies having mindfulness of the inter-connection between people; that is to say, no man is an island, according to the poet John Donne. This mindfulness leads to love, and then to the awareness of the presence of God or that of a Higher Being. Love is the first step towards spirituality.

The oneness of all life is one of the basic laws of Nature: that is, we are all inter-connected with one another. This universal moral principle holds the key to true and lasting freedom in living. Without that freedom, we are forever living in human bondage that inhibits further development of the wellness of the body, the mind, and the soul. Without this wellness alignment, there is no wellness wisdom.

An illustration

A pastor from Hong Kong was invited to give a sermon in China. A woman from the congregation asked the pastor if it was right to give money to get her son into an elite school. The pastor replied by saying: “Your son getting into that elite school would also imply depriving another child of that same opportunity you are seeking for your child.”

A year later, the pastor met the same woman, who told him that her son had got into that elite school but without using her kwanxi or connection. The pastor then said to her: “See, God is in control; if you would just let Him.”

Thinking question

If you were the woman with the money and the kwanxi, would you have done differently?

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, November 27, 2020

Anger and Depression


Anger

Anger or rage is an ineffective and inefficient way to resolve any issue or make any problem go away. It is a negative emotion that may lead to depression, if it is not properly addressed.

An illustration

Donna Alexander, the creator of the “Anger Room” in Chicago, first thought of the idea as a teenager living in Chicago. Having witnessed much domestic violence and many conflicts at school as a teenager, Donna Alexander finally decided to create a space where anyone can lash out without serious consequences. While at the “Anger Room,” the guests, after paying a fee, are given a safe space to unleash their anger and rage by smashing and destroying objects, such as glasses or even a TV. In addition, the room can also be set up to look like an office or a kitchen, where anger often becomes totally uncontrollable.

Thinking questions

Can you really hold off your anger until after you have checked in at the “Anger Room”?

If you are so accustomed to smashing and destroying many objects at the “Anger Room,” could you still restrain yourself from doing the same when your anger is sudden and unmanageable in the office or the kitchen?
                                                     
The reality

As much as 50 percent of human diseases may be psychosomatic. Therefore, it is not an overstatement that the mind and diseases are interconnected.

Dr. Caroline B. Thomas, M.D., of John Hopkins School of Medicine, discovered that cancer patients often had a prior poor relationship with their parents, attesting to the pivotal role of emotions in the development of cancer. In another study by Dr. Richard B. Shekelle of the University of Texas School of Medicine, it was found that depression patients were not only more cancer prone but also more likely to die of cancer than the other patients. If emotions play a pivotal role in cancer, by the same token, negative emotions may also adversely affect the symptoms or the prognosis of any human disease. Thoughts of anger, despair, discontent, frustration, guilt, or resentment are instrumental in depressing the physiological processes, including the human body’s immune response—a formula for promoting the development of an autoimmune disease.

According to other studies, strong negative emotions, such as anger, can create destructive mental energy that is health damaging. However, it must be pointed out that it is more damaging in not experiencing raging anger, or not wanting to experience it than in actually experiencing it. The former may cause diseases, or trigger a depression.

Conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom is to use distraction to defuse and dissipate the sudden anger or rage.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "When angry, count 10, before you speak; if very angry, 100." 

TAO wisdom

According to TAO, the wisdom of Lao Tzu, the ancient sage from China, take a deep breath, review the situation, and ask yourself one simple question: what is the original purpose of driving your car—to get to your destination, or to get angry?

Don’t hold your anger in; instead, let it go, by breathing it out. Don’t let it go as pain; instead, let it go as your acceptance. Your acceptance should be viewed not as a sign of your own weakness but as a statement of your own communication to yourself that getting to your destination is much more important than getting angry.

Remember, anger is always present to serve a purpose to release some deeper issues, problems, and internal conflicts that you may be carrying in your own bag and baggage all these years. It is always better to release anger than to turn it around to destroy yourself. Suppressing anger, on the other hand, is also self destructive, as the negative energy redirects itself back into your own body. Anger in itself is a path of destruction. Resolve anger by developing habits that may release internal conflicts in a constructive manner before it can be released as rage.

Remember, the world always reflects your actions. If you lash out in rage, then the world lashes back at you with that same rage causing pain or grief that still has to get resolved. There is no true “release” of anger, except by resolution.

TAO teaches that peace is the true warrior’s path. The sword while an option is never used with anger, or you may have lost from the start. According to Lao Tzu, “The best fighter is never becoming angry.”

Learn to do the following when you become angry:

Take a deep diaphragm breath (See Appendix B), and just feel it.

Just look at your anger in your mind.

Accept that you are now angry, and then slowly release your anger as you breathe it out.

If necessary, use your arm like a sword to sweep away your anger and cut through your feelings of anger, while saying: “I can see my anger: it is as it was.”

Subconsciously, we all exert a great deal of mental energy to hold on to the past, which is no more than what we think happened. In the now, what happened in the past is just a memory, and no longer there; all memories are no longer truths, but at best only guidelines for the future. That is to say, your anger is as it was. Just learn to release your anger over any issue. Anger on its own has no power at all, except the power you give it to make it real to you.

The bottom line: anger is often caused by an inflated ego that one has to be right about an issue; without an ego, nothing can anger or trouble you. Seek only your internal balance and harmony.

“We do not become aggressive when we are confronted.
We do not become angry when we are provoked.
We see neither an enemy nor a competitor,
because we do not seek our own way.

Knowing both our strengths and weaknesses,
we use them to complement one another.
Thus, we find balance and harmony.
Naturally and easily, we follow the Way.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 68)

Just do not let your anger depress you!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Bag and Baggage


The Bag and Baggage

Life journey is forever on a long and winding road with many detours and sideways. On this bumpy life journey, we all carry with us our own bag and baggage, containing our individual beliefs, feelings, and skills, some of which may ultimately become the signs and symptoms of our own depression.

Thinking questions

What are you carrying in your own bag and baggage?

Who packed your bag and baggage? Did others help you with your packing?

How long have you been carrying your own bag and baggage?

Is your own bag and baggage getting heavier with each day passing?

Does your own bag and baggage serve the purpose of your life journey in any way?

Have you ever thought of unpacking some, if not all, of what is inside your own bag and baggage?

What is inside an individual’s bag and baggage could be anything from anger, bitterness, frustration, regret, sadness, shame, to “what-if”—the major components of depression.

TAO is the human wisdom, which is The Way of going through what is in your bag and baggage.  


Emotions and feelings are two sides of the same coin; they are closely related, but they are two very different things in that the former create biochemical reactions in the body, affecting the physical state, while the latter are mental associations and reactions to the former

Depression involves the numbing of strong emotions and feelings, especially anger, fear, and shame, that an individual often experiences and carries in his or her own bag and baggage.

According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we all have qi (), which is the internal life-giving energy circulating within each of us, giving us internal balance and harmony. Emotions are energy states, which may either contribute to or deplete our own internal life-giving energy, causing harmony or disharmony, and leading to positive or negative emotions and feelings.

The Seven Emotions

According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are seven emotions that are the underlying causes of many internal diseases, and they are anger, anxiety, fear, fright, joy, sadness, and worry. Because Chinese medicine is all about internal balance and harmony, these seven emotions may even affect different human body organs. For example, excessive anger impairs the liver, causing headaches, while excessive joy dysfunctions the heart, leading to mania and mental disorders.

Generally speaking, any “excessive” emotion or feeling may trigger insomnia and loss of appetite, which are some of the common symptoms of depression.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Control


CONTROL

Obedience and trust

What is obedience or disobedience to God?

An example of disobedience is lining up for hours to get your Power Ball.

What if it is God who wants you to win the lottery?

Well, in the first place, God did not create the Power Ball. It is your own choice and decision to go and get the lottery ticket; it has everything to do with your own greed and vanity.

Buying a lottery ticket is one of the many attachments to money and wealth. You may want to change God’s mind about what He has destined for you. Remember, if God wants you to be super rich, He would have given you all the tools in the form of God-inspired life passions.

Changing God’s mind for what He has already destined for you is disobedience. Obedience to God is graciously accepting and embracing any adversity and calamity in life so that you may learn lessons from them, thereby enhancing your spiritual wisdom to continue your pathway of trust and obedience.

“Teach us to number our days,
   that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

What is trust in God?

Trust in God means believing in the veracity of His Word.

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
  It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
  and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
(Isaiah 53: 11)

Letting God Is letting go of your control
                 
God is in absolute control of everything.

 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.’”
(Psalm 46:10)

Throughout ages, miracles have happened around the world—a testament to the indisputable fact that God is always in control of anything and everything, despite humans’ resistance to letting go of their futile endeavors to control their own destinies.

There was the story of Norbert Gennep, born in AD 1080, who came from a wealthy and influential family in Germany, with ties to the imperial court. At that time in history, it was not uncommon for those seeking political advancement to also acquire ecclesiastical offices. So, Norbert had himself ordained a Sub-deacon and became a Canon, although he had no real piety or religious inclination; his ultimate motive was to indulge himself in worldly luxuries and pleasures. 

Then, one day in AD 1112, while riding on horseback, he was struck by a fierce lightning, thrown from his horse, and remained unconscious for a while. On waking up, Norbert was completely transformed, and asked: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” He heard God’s voice, saying: “Turn away from evil, and do good.” Obediently, he gave up everything he ever owned, became a priest, preached the Gospel, and lived the simple life of a wandering preacher in barefoot. Norbert eventually became the Archbishop of Magdeburg in Germany, and was subsequently made a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

You do not have to be struck by lightning and thrown off the horseback before you would let go of your attachments to the material world, as well as your futile attempt to control your destiny. God can work miracles in your life if you are obedient, and if it is His will.

The origin of control

Control is basic human instinct. Humans are inherently controlling. Out of fear and insecurity, our ancestors living as early as in the Stone Age strove to control their environment in order to survive, and thus developing their fight-or-flight instinct.

Since time immemorial, control has evolved, and most of us are controlling to a certain extent. We, as parents, control our children’s destinies by striving to steer them clear of the wrong pathways we might have previously treaded ourselves. Our cultures tell us that we should be in control of everything around us at all times, including our futures and destinies. Controlling, to many of us, is synonymous with independence and power.

The irony of control

Stress in everyday life and living may make you want to control everyone and everything around you in order to de-stress yourself. Ironically enough, in the process of controlling stress, you may also have inadvertently created a vicious cycle of stress-generating-more-stress.

The anticipation of stress puts you on an alert system, producing stress hormones. Then You may have to make some choices—choosing this and avoiding that. Choosing in itself is stressful, especially when picking the wrong choices, leading to regret and disappointment. In addition, your expectation of the anticipated result may further intensify the stress, often making you do more than what is necessary to guarantee the expected result. Over-doing is stressful.

The irony is that controlling stress may only lead to getting more stress.

The different ways of control

Control may come in many different forms in life, and we are all susceptible to some forms of control.

Given that control is basic human instinct, we all spontaneously want to control how people perceive us.

If you ask a child “How old are you?”, the child may answer: “Five years and four months”, while also extending his or her four fingers to highlight the “four months.” The child wants to control your perception of him or her—that he or she is “four months” older than other five-year-old kids.

If you ask a teenager the same question, that teenager may answer: “I am fifteen”—implying that “I’m nearly old enough to drive soon.”

If you ask someone in the late twenties or early thirties the same question, that individual may answer quite differently: “I won’t tell you; just guess!”—that individual may want to control your perception of his or her real age in relation to his or her appearance.

If you ask an elderly person the same question, that person may be more willing to let you know his or her real age by saying: “I’ve just turned eighty.” That individual is, in fact, also controlling your perception: “See, I’m eighty, but I look much younger—probably like a sixty-year-old, don’t I?”

To a more or less degree, we all want to control how people think of us. Do you like to wear loose-fitting clothing to hide your belly fat? Do you use heavy makeup to mask your facial lines? Do you dye your hair to make you look younger? Control is about the perception of the ego-self by others.

In addition to controlling how people perceive us, we may also want to control how people act and react toward us by using emotions, such as anger, fear, and guilt, among other negative emotions. Furthermore, we may also want to control the circumstances we are living in, thereby controlling what is happening to and around us.

The bottom line: we are all controlling to a certain extent due to our attachments to different things in life that we think may define who and what we perceive ourselves to be.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau